Healthy Living Blog

Through Chemo and Out the Other Side

I Made It

Headed to the dog park

Less than 30 days out and I’ve taken Nutella to the dog park. I’ve started some running and boxing. Don’t get the wrong idea- I’m not back to normal, I’m approaching all of these activities as though I’m a beginner because this is a new beginning.

But my progress, it feels monumental. I’m torn between reflecting on how far I’ve come and not wanting to relive the emotions from what was easily the worst experience of my life. But on the moments where I choose reflection, I realize two things.

The first is the quality of people in my life and how much I value them. The people that were in my corner, whether it was the physical hands to hold, the phone calls when I needed them,  or from everyone following my journey and the support that I felt from all of you who messaged. When I felt destroyed and didn’t feel hope, you guys gave it to me. So thank you.

The second was the importance of general health. The importance that diet and exercise play in not just physical health, but emotional. The freedom you have when you feel good and your body is working for you and not against you. That freedom is worth fighting for.

I Feel Lucky

Everyone has a different experience with HSCT. It’s a hard treatment. It’s an invasive experience, and I can’t speak for everyone’s experience but I can speak to mine. Mine was hard but filled with luck. Coming out the other side of this I feel lucky.

First Boxing Class Back

I think lucky is an odd feeling to describe life with an autoimmune disease, but it is my feeling. I feel lucky to have had access to this treatment. It was a path that my doctors and I chose together because my MRIs were progressing despite having already tried many typical treatment options.

I feel lucky that, although my MRIs were showing progress my physical symptoms were minimal so I was able to go into this treatment physically strong. I feel lucky that going into HSCT my body allowed me to run 2-3 times a week, and box twice.

I feel lucky that I chose to, and had access to healthy foods leading up to this treatment. My doctors attribute my strength prior to HSCT as a reason why post-treatment my recovery is rapid. So right now, as a rapidly recovering woman- I feel lucky.

Chemo Was Hard

The chemo was hard. The week after it was administered, before my immune system was on the rebound I was in a dark place. That is when I didn’t feel hope. Stem cells were readministered. They provided me with shots to stimulate cell production in the body to bring my white blood cell count and neutrophil count up, and once they were at the appropriate numbers I was allowed to leave the hospital.

Once I left I had to protect my immune system. Some of my ‘numbers’ were normal, but it was still new. A baby’s immune system is a great way to think of it. So I left, with this new, young immune system ready to be careful while it figures out what to do and all I need from it. Since I’ve left the hospital with my baby immune system, I have been nurturing it and it has allowed me to start some boxing, begin running, and most importantly- play with my dog.

life after the hospital

For me, eating was one of the hardest parts of chemo. I didn’t want to do it. Every now and then I still find it hard to eat but I know that I need to eat before my medication or else I throw up. So I focus on doing it and doing it well. I eat healthy foods, including lots of vegetables and will be sharing my recipes with you along the way.

Another hard part of chemo was not being physically able to do basically anything. Right now I am working on getting some strength back. I exercised a lot before and missed not just the act of working out, but feeling strong, and capable of conquering my world. So right now my goals are to tiptoe towards progress. I don’t need to run a 10k anytime soon, but I do need to get out of the door and put one foot in front of the other. I’m not chasing distances or time goals, but I am chasing the feeling of being able to use my body how I want to and when I want to. I’m chasing that freedom.

As I get back into the swing of life I’m excited to help others who want to attain freedom. This treatment has taught me a lot, hurt me, made me feel lucky and loved, and took away my freedom. But now that I’m working towards getting it back I’m coming to accept my journey. Now if only my hair would grow back.

Lap Snuggles with Nutella

Content and Ideas Created by
Jessica Faulds

As Told by 
Rachel Faulds

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